In free-space optical communication systems, narrow beam diameters necessitate precision pointing over a relatively wide field of regard. Control systems with such large dynamic range requirements sometimes employ multi-stage architectures, where a "coarse" mechanism provides low-bandwidth control over a large range of travel, and a "fine" mechanism provides high-bandwidth disturbance rejection over a limited range of travel. In such systems, the two stages must be coordinated in their dynamic response, so as to avoid undesirable coupling and even interference with each other. This topic has been studied in various literature - especially in the field of hard disk drives, but also for optical pointing systems. However, most of this literature considers systems where the output of the two stages combines by simple linear sum. Dual-stage control becomes even more challenging when the two stages combine via nonlinear kinematic relationships, as they would in an optical pointing system employing multiple gimbaled steering mirrors. This paper presents an approach for handling these nonlinear kinematic effects, and demonstrates the viability of this approach via simulation.
Laser communication systems promise orders-of-magnitude improvement in data throughput per unit SWaP (size, weight and power) compared to conventional RF systems. However, in order for lasercom to make sense economically as part of a worldwide connectivity solution, the cost per terminal still needs to be significantly reduced. In this paper, we describe a coarse pointing mechanism that has been designed with an emphasis on simplicity, making use of conventional materials and commercial off-the-shelf components wherever possible. An overview of the design architecture and trades is presented, along with various results and practical lessons learned during prototype integration and test.